Recently New York City-based portrait and lifestyle photographer Keith Barraclough had the opportunity to photograph a pro bono assignment for the I Had Cancer Support Network. I Had Cancer is a social support network with the mission of helping people deal more effectively with life before, during and after cancer. Barraclough was contacted by Imelda Suriato, Creative Director at Squeaky Wheel Media, from a Google search of New York City photographers. She liked what she saw and contacted him for their latest campaign, 5Words2cancer. Barraclough specializes in simple but elegant portraiture of people, athletes, celebrities, corporate executives and has photographed the TeachersCount campaign of celebrities and their mentors for several seasons now. As Barraclough explains, “When they asked, I didn't hesitate in saying yes. My mother died of breast cancer six years ago and this was a way to show support for those who have cancer.”
The I Had Cancer Support Network was founded by Mailet Lopez, who is also a co-founder of Squeaky Wheel Media, the agency behind the network and the campaign. Lopez is a breast cancer survivor herself, and although she had a loving family and friends for strong support, she still had feelings of isolation and confusion as she went through her treatment. After surviving her battle with cancer, Lopez was determined to help others. She documented her experience and then turned it into a blog to help people connect and share their stories of the disease. Her partners at Squeaky Wheel Media learned about the blog and using their technical resources and the powers of social media created the I Had Cancer Support Network online. People with cancer, survivors, the newly diagnosed and their friends and families now have a place to find others, sometimes right in their own neighborhoods, and share their stories.
For this latest campaign, the agency and the network wanted to capture the portraits and stories of the 14 new faces of I Had Cancer. This past April they started the idea of 5Words2cancer, where each survivor is asked to give a 5-word acceptance speech as a way to send cancer a message. The community response was great and the 5-word concept won a Webby award for Squeaky Wheel Media, as well as the birth of a growing movement. They continued this tradition with the latest campaign and with Barraclough now at the helm for still photography. Some of the cancer survivors came from as far away as Chicago to be a part of the project. “All of the cancer survivors were extremely giving of their time and didn't make anyone on set feel ‘sorry’ for them,” says Barraclough. They joked, told stories and made everyone feel very comfortable. Going into this Barraclough was not sure how he would react to the talent. “It was a nice change to other shoots I've been on where we were the ones making the talent feel comfortable. It was also a little bit of a healing process for me. Being able to talk to those who have had or who have cancer helped with how I think about my mom,” he adds.
Barraclough shot the portraits with a Canon 5d Mark III tethered to 17" MacBook Pro, using two strobes with softboxes and red background. Getting the background the correct shade that matched the client's Web site was the trickiest part, but it was all a matter of correcting and adjusting the lights.
The portraits of the 14 community members will become the new faces on the homepage of IHadCancer.com, as well as across the social media platforms that are used to connect with the larger cancer community. The mission to help those affected by cancer and find support and answers from others who have been through the same experiences have been a great success for all involved. The focus is on community members and Barraclough brought each story out with simplicity, grace and comfort. "Keith was exceptionally generous with his time and talent, working with each one of the photo subject[s] and making them feel comfortable with the camera. It’s not easy to get great photos of “non-models,” but each person has a great story of surviving cancer, of strength and courage, and Keith’s photography allowed that to shine through. What’s more, he made them feel great and for that, we’re truly thrilled," says Creative Director Imelda Suriato.
© Keith Barraclough
You can view all the portraiture and stories at I Had Cancer and see more of Keith Barraclough’s unique vision and style for portraiture, lifestyle and corporate work at his site, www.keithbarraclough.com. He is represented by KDReps.
I Had Cancer/5Words2Cancer Credits
Mailet Lopez: Founder, IHadCancer.com; Co-Founder, Squeaky Wheel Media
Anthony Del Monte: Co-Founder, IHadCancer.com; Founder/ CEO, Squeaky Wheel Media
Imelda Suriato: Creative Director, Squeaky Wheel Media
Yulhee Cho: Project Manager, IHadCancer.com
Emily Giegerich: Marketing/Community Assistant, IHadCancer.com